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Acquiring Seismic Data-Agreements With Land or Lease Owners, Contracting For Seismic Data or Services

Warren J. Ludlow, Oil & Gas Agreements; The Exploration Phase (2009)

Thirty years ago, oil and gas explorers were happy if a third of their exploratory wells turned out to be producers. But with the development of seismic techniques, especially three-dimensional or 3D seismic, today's explorers are not satisfied unless the success rate of their exploratory wells is at least two-thirds. Because of these dramatic increases in drilling success rates, most wells drilled today utilize the aid of seismic data.

This paper will focus on the legal aspects of seismic data, particularly the acquisition of seismic data and geophysical trespass, and the various types of contracts relating to the acquisition, use and licensing of seismic data, with special emphasis on clauses dealing with exceptions to confidentiality obligations, risk allocation in connection with seismic operations, and the right to sublicense and transfer seismic data. It will also examine whether seismic data qualify as trade secrets. In addition, the paper will include checklists of the provisions contracts dealing with seismic data typically contain.

Although this paper cites cases and legal treatises where appropriate, the focus is on the practical aspects of dealing with seismic data rather than an in depth legal analysis. Where there is some legal analysis, this paper tends to focus on Texas law.2

The Legal Aspects of Acquiring Seismic

The Nature o